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ECO Plastics criticises UK mixed plastics collection

United Kingdom – ‘€˜The UK should be focusing on capturing greater numbers of plastic bottles instead of turning its attention to mixed plastics recycling,’€™ ECO Plastics’€™ Managing Director Jonathan Short stated at the Resource Recovery Forum’€™s latest summer conference. He claimed a change in tactics is necessary as ‘€˜significant capital expenditure’€™ is required to successfully process the volume of mixed plastics present on the UK market.

According to Mr Short, the notable rise in collected mixed plastics observed over the last three years – predominantly in the form of pots, tubs and trays – is having a ‘€˜negative impact on the quality of plastic bottles that are received at recycling plants’€™. Without a meaningful financial injection in terms of infrastructure and the much-needed, long-term commitment of producers, the mixed plastics market may very well not be sustainable, Mr Short reasoned.

He acknowledged an opportunity for this type of plastic in the long term but reminded conference delegates: ‘€˜First you need to create consistent end markets for the material. Then, yes, it is technically and commercially possible.’€™ He added: ‘€˜The work WRAP (the UK Waste & Resources Action Programme) has done so far has been valuable – but it is only scratching the surface.’€™

WRAP expert Gareth Hollinshead responded by saying that the sector would benefit from investment in infrastructure. He also stated that the UK’€™s lack of capacity for mixed plastics represented a ‘€˜chicken and egg’€™ situation, with end markets and infrastructure very much co-dependent and only likely to develop alongside one another.

According to Mr Hollinshead, councils in the UK are collecting only around 10% of mixed plastics, while regular plastic bottles have achieved a 90% collection rate. Meanwhile, around two thirds of the mixed plastic material collected in the UK is exported for processing, the WRAP representative noted.

He went on to express high hopes for the special ‘€˜mixed plastics loan fund’€™ (now at US$ 7.7 million) which was set up in 2010 to stimulate further sorting of materials. ‘€˜There is an emerging picture where more and more infrastructure is coming on stream to recycle mixed plastics,’€™ he concluded. ‘€˜We expect that to grow and we are seeing our vision becoming a reality.’€™

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